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10 Things to Think about When Choosing an Oncologist


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10 Things to Think about When Choosing an Oncologist

When it comes to big decisions - for example, buying a home - we often do plenty of ground work. We check out neighborhoods, community activities, and of course, location. When we are diagnosed with cancer we are faced with an even bigger decision - one that could mean life or death - and at a time when we don't have the luxury of leisurely considering options. How can you make such an important decision, at a time when you are emotionally overwhelmed?

Here are a few things to consider:

1. What oncologists and cancer centers are included in your insurance plan?

2. Do you have a type of cancer that would make treatment at a larger cancer center preferable? For example, if you are having lung cancer surgery, outcomes appear to be better at hospitals that perform a greater number of these surgeries. If you have a rare cancer you may be more likely to find a doctor who is familiar with your cancer at a larger cancer center.

3. Personality. Are you someone who desires a lot of compassion and empathy? Or are you instead someone who prefers a doctor who is to-the-point?

4. Access to clinical trials. The only way we make strides in managing cancer is through patient participation in clinical trials. That said, only a small number of cancer patients participate in these trials. Worldwide clinical trial databases and matching services (a free service in which nurse navigators match cancer patients with clinical trials that are available around the world) are available for people with cancer, that outline the purpose of various clinical studies as well as list cancer centers and oncologists who are involved in the clinical studies.

5. Board certification. Is the doctor you are interested in seeing board certified (or board eligible) in oncology?

6. Are other specialists you may need to see available at the same institution. For example, if you will likely need surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy for your cancer, are all of these services available at the cancer center you are interested in choosing?

7. Cancer type. Does the oncologist you are considering have a special interest in your type of cancer?

8. Available services. For example, if you have lung cancer, does the cancer center offer less invasive forms of surgery such as video assisted thorascopic surgery (VATS)?

9. Is the oncologist at a cancer center that is considered a National Cancer Institute designated cancer center? (These centers not only treat patients but are dedicated to research on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.)

10. Experience. How long has the doctor been in practice? Does the doctor have experience with cancers like yours?



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